PRESS STATEMENT BY THE INTEGRITY NIGERIAN LAWYERS ASSOCIATION.
29th January, 2019.
Dear Gentlemen and Ladies of the Press,
Good day all.
May I on behalf of all members of this group, go straight to the point and state thus:
Recently the judiciary and indeed the legal profession in Nigeria have become a subject ridicule in the public domain.
Ordinarily,The Judiciary is the pendulum that holds every society together under the roof of Justice.
However, we will never attain justice where the institution, which is saddled with the responsibility of protecting the sanctity of our laws, promoting sanity in our democracy and day to day dealings is marred by corruption, shielding corrupt officials, uncertainties and unnecessary technicalities.
An example is the case of Joseph Nwobike (formerly SAN) and Justice Umezulike of Court of Appeal and Kabiru Auta among several others, who were convicted and sentenced for corruption related cases.
These and others have dragged the name of the entire profession into disrepute and portray lawyers and other members of our noble profession as dishonest or sometimes referred to as “crooks” by members of the public who hitherto hold lawyers in high esteem.
The recent damning allegations against his Lordship the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria- Walter Onnoghen and his open admission thereof has further put to test the ability of the Judiciary and by extension the entire legal profession to regulate and discipline itself.
Unfortunately, while having grave allegations hanging on his neck, my Lord, the Honorable Chief Justice through the instrumentality of lawyers kept running in search of restraining orders an act which various decisions of the Supreme Court have pronounced as ‘reprehensible’; a disheartening fox method, which created an unfortunate situation where it appears he is running away from justice.
More troubling is the fact that before and after the order of suspension of Justice Onoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal all the over-reactions of lawyers on both sides were based on technicalities and nobody was bold enough to ask the CJN to submit himself to the test of Justice that he heads and administer.
With all these brazen destruction of our professional reputation, today (28/1/2019), the Nigerian Bar Association (NEC meeting) which is supposed to promote justice has decided to support Justice Onnoghen despite openly admitting the allegations against him.
In doing so, the NBA calls on all its members to boycott courts across purportedly to safeguard the reputation of the system.
We however view this as an attempt to shelve one single person from facing the law.
Therefore, we wish to make it categorically clear that NBA’s position is not a reflection of the collective opinion of its members.
In view of this therefore, we state as follows:
1. The leadership of NBA should retrace its step and ensure it takes decisions that agree with the collective thoughts and opinions of its members.
2. The decision to boycott courts in the present situation is not in line with procedures known to law in resolving the present confusion.
3. NBA’s position is simply a reflection of the personal interest of few people and it is undemocratic and portrays our noble NBA as shielding suspects from justice.
3. The action of NBA on this matter is a clog in the wheel of justice and must be reviewed.
5. NBA’s position has exposed Lawyers to ridicule which is dangerous for all of us as lawyers.
We therefore call on NBA leadership to reconsider its position on this matter particularly its directive to lawyers to boycott courts.
God Bless Nigerian!
A. S. Garba Esq. – Chairman
Dr. Mustapha Musa Esq. -Vice Chairman 1
Abdulhakim Owolabi Adepoju Vice Chairman 2
Buhari Ibrahim Shehu Esq. Secretary
Ekemini Uwa Umoh Esq.
Audu Bulama Bukarti- Spokeperson